Monday, January 4, 2010
Birkenfeld must be considered among the biggest whistle-blowers of all time. He is the Benedict Arnold of the private banking industry and single-handedly made 2009 the year in which the world finally got serious about cracking down on tax evasion. His story is both personally compelling and significant in terms of the sudden changes it has brought to our tax system.
Although Birkenfeld is responsible for the snaring of countless tax cheats, he's no ordinary hero. His hands were hardly clean in the UBS affair. Like a Shakespearean protagonist, he seems as flawed as he is noble. What's undeniable, though, is that the consequences of his actions have affected millions of taxpayers, the global financial sector, and tax administrations around the world. For all of these reasons, Bradley Birkenfeld is Tax Notes' Person of the Year for 2009. ...
I am delighted to be named one of nine other "notable and talented figures in the tax world [who] were considered for Person of the Year":
Anyone looking for a quick fix of the day's major tax headlines, highlights of recently released papers from heavy hitters in the tax law community, or news on other happenings in the academic world of tax law increasingly turned to Paul L. Caron's TaxProf Blog in 2009. The blog's "SiteMeter" shows that it has received over 8.5 million visitors since its inception in April 2004, and the blog had the fifth most visitors among the top 35 blogs edited by law professors with publicly available SiteMeters for the October 2008 to September 2009 period, according to an October 13 post. That was a 46.4 percent increase over the previous 12-month period. TaxProf Blog was named the best law professor blog by Dennis Kennedy in his sixth annual law-related blogging awards (the Blawggies).
It's easy to see why interest in Caron's blog has grown. Not only is TaxProf Blog a convenient clearinghouse for up-to-date tax information, but discussions on the blog have also helped steer the national debate on tax law. For example, few would have imagined that the accident that occurred on Washington's subway line in June had its roots in tax law. But Caron helped draw attention to the argument, first made by Sarah B. Lawsky of the George Washington University Law School, that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's tax-advantaged sale-leaseback transactions prevented the agency from replacing older, unsafe cars. Not only did the major media outlets pick up on the story after it was featured on TaxProf Blog, but even members of Congress took notice.
Of course, Caron is not just known for his work on TaxProf Blog. He is also the associate dean of faculty and the Charles Hartstock Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. New editions of Caron's Tax Stories and Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation: Cases and Materials (which he coauthored with Paul R. McDaniel and James R. Repetti) were also published in 2009.
The other nominees for Tax Person of the Year were:
- T. David Cowart (Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Dallas)
- Ken Kuykendall (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Chicago)
- Michael Mundaca (Nominee, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy)
- Erika W. Nijenhuis (Cleary Gottlieb, New York; Chair, NYSBA Tax Section)
- Charles B. Rangel (Chair, House Ways & Means Committee)
- Charles P. Rettig (Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, Beverly Hills, CA)
- Douglas Shulman (IRS Commissioner)
- Alan D. Viard (Economist, American Enterprise Institute)